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June 17, 2008

Mono stretches its tentacles across the world

The performances and recordings of Japanese instrumental quartet Mono are often described as Zen-like, but also dynamic. 

Gentle interludes, gathering storms and slashing cacophonies come out to the listener in a unique, almost stoic grace, even when howls of feedback are unleashed. 

The two releases from 2006 show the band’s controlled restlessness. You Are There was an hour-long journey in six pieces produced by indie-rock legend Steve Albini. A few months later came Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain, with orchestrated collaboration (chorus, sax) but without individual song titles. 

Last year’s tour with doom-metalists High on Fire burnished Mono’s reputation and continued the expansion of their audience. They are back in the States now for one gig only, and that’ll be outdoors, Saturday at 9:25 p.m., at Terrastock 7. 

Guitarist Takaakira “Taka” Goto discusses the one-off, with Reiko Kudo aiding in translation.

Cinema paradise: Japan’s Mono visit Terrastock as a one-off.
Cinema paradise: Japan’s Mono visit Terrastock as a one-off.


LEO: This is the band’s only appearance right now, and it is not part of a bigger tour. So how did we get to be so fortunate?

Takaakira Goto: I was interviewed by Phil (McMullen, for Terrascope Online) a few years back, and the interview was really interesting, and the topics included Terrastock. Even though Mono is preparing for a new album, we have decided to come over and be a part of Terrastock. The organizers are working really hard to make it happen, so we want to be a part of it.


LEO: Has Mono’s audience changed over the years? 

TG: When Mono started touring the States back in 2003, we started playing pubs or bars. Mono’s first audience was people who didn’t know them but happened to be at the bar to get drunk! But eventually, the band started touring as headliners, and many music fans started coming. Now we have lots of different people in the audience. Some of them are heavy metal fans, some rock fans, some classical. 


LEO: A band with guitar, bass and drums, capable of putting out power chords — when they write songs, I’d think they imagine fans dancing, or nodding their heads, tapping their feet. But when you’re leading the band in songs like “Yearning,” that are longer and work through conscious discipline, do you imagine the activities of the audience? There isn’t a lot of dancing at a Mono concert, is there?

TG: Mono’s music is more like cinema. It has a story … beginnings and a climax that will leave something deep inside your heart. It’s not something to dance with or sing along with, but still, some people dance.

When we toured with High on Fire, people were not expecting to listen to Mono. They were talking when we started playing. But after the first song, they realized there was something just as exciting to appreciate.

It doesn’t matter if the audience is dancing or listening to the music by closing their eyes and listening intensely. Or even singing. That’s up to them. We truly believe in the pure power of music, which makes people react.


LEO: Your work on guitar has phenomenal discipline and restraint. Are there guitarists with similar qualities who you wish were more well known?

TG: If asked who is my favorite player, I would say (experimental blues guitarist) Loren MazzaCane Connors. And My Bloody Valentine is my favorite rock band.


LEO: At Terrastock, will Mono be playing new songs? Can you give an idea of what the next recordings from Mono will be like? 

TG: We’re going to be playing at

least two new songs. As for the next

album, it will be a crazy, crazy positive feeling that you will get. You will hear more strings and more orchestration.

We’re very excited.